Not asking. Demanding equal rights!

September 19, 2013


Gregory and Michael – Protesting for Love

September 19, 2013


I will. I do.

September 11, 2013

Tonight Gregory and I went to dinner at Bridges Bali, a delightful restaurant that we had lunch at last Friday.  We returned because the service, food, atmosphere and location were impeccable.  Quite the combination if you get it all right.  Having had the entrée of rare roast lamb and the main of Thai-inspired grilled Barramundi, we settled for espressos and Cointreau chocolate mousse.  Yes, mousse.

And it was during the mousse, yes – mousse, that the conversation turned to one we’d had a number of times in the past, about marriage and our thoughts on it.  Yet, this time, there was a different tone to the conversation.  Gregory became a little more serious and actually asked me if I’d marry him, not if I’d ever marry him, but if I’d actually marry him.  The sort of question that demanded a yes answer, here and now.

Oh, I thought, this is the real thing, not a humorous conversation, but an actual marriage proposal.  I think I started to cry and was trying to maintain my composure between polite interruptions from the impeccably appointed wait-staff who clearly weren’t trained in the art of detecting a marriage proposal between two middle-aged men.  Wiping away the odd tear or two I said yes and continued trying to untangle the mass of emotions that had beset me, amidst what could only be described as one of the most idyllic moments of my life.

A quick phone-call from me back to Australia to let the folks know and a quick text message or two from Gregory back to his kids and sister and the deal was sealed.  I have to say, finding the courage to make that phone call, and finding the actual words to say were amazingly more fraught than I would ever have expected.  But having announced our engagement felt good, and it felt right.  I couldn’t think of a better man to be engaged to get married to.

Of course, the question has been asked, in which country will you guys get married.  Not a question most engaged couples get asked I suspect, because the expectation is they would celebrate their nuptials at home, wherever that was for them.  Yet for us two Australians, getting married at home is not so straightforward, because there is no legal option for us to do this in Australia currently.  We may be able to get married in a foreign consulate in Australia, but that wouldn’t be on Australian soil, and there wouldn’t be the stunningly beautiful Australian Coat of Arms on that marriage certificate.

It was a very simple decision for us.  We are going to get married to each other in Australia, under Australian law, on Australian soil.  It may be in the next three years, or it may be longer, but it will happen in both our lifetimes and most likely sooner than later.

We haven’t exchanged rings.  We probably won’t.  Rings are not our style.  We did get an ‘engagement ring’ from Facebook though, when we made that irrevocable and gay announcement to our social networks:

Engaged

So, thank you Gregory, you’ve changed my life, tonight, and every day since we met on that Tuesday in November 2008.  I love you.

P.S.  I can’t believe my enjoyment of the perfect chocolate mousse was interrupted by a marriage proposal.  Honestly.  Timing!


Kelly O’Dwyer’s views on Marriage Equality have suddenly “evolved”

March 18, 2013

Last September my partner Gregory and I met with his federal Member of Parliament Kelly O’Dwyer to discuss her position on Marriage Equality.  You can read about our meeting here.

Today in The Sydney Morning Herald it is reported:

11:31am: Over in the Federation Chamber (a parallel chamber for parliamentary business) Liberal MP Kelly O’Dwyer has told MPs she supports changing the Marriage Act to recognise same sex marriage.

“There will be some people in my family who will be disappointed,” Ms O’Dwyer says.

“”There will be others in my family who will be able to marry [if laws are changed].”

Ms O’Dwyer has been targetted by marriage equality campaigners due to the high level of support for change in her Melbourne seat.

Tellingly, Ms O’Dwyer says the Coalition party room has not yet debated what its election policy on this issue will be.

to which Gregory asked of Kelly (via Twitter):

Almost immediately after this tweet went out I saw that Kelly O’Dwyer had stated her new position on Marriage Equality:

I believe that changing the Marriage Act by extending the definition to include same-sex couples will not lessen the status of families.  On the contrary, I think that it will strengthen it by building stronger bonds of commitment between two people regardless of gender and sexual orientation.

So thank you Kelly, thank you for understanding that all people deserve equal rights.  Now please help Tony Abbott understand this too.


Meeting Anna Burke, Federal MP for Chisholm

August 12, 2012

20120811 Meeting with Anna Burke MP for ChisholmYesterday Gregory and I met with my federal MP Anna Burke (Chisholm). We talked about how the law makes us feel like second-class citizens and how our relationship is inferior to the others of Gregory’s 10 married siblings and my brother’s.

Anna told us her concern was that she had two vocal Greek Orthodox Churches in her electorate who were putting the pressure on her to vote against marriage equality and that there weren’t the numbers to support it.

I suggested maybe she ramp up the quality of the response facility on her web site, to help gauge the level of support more effectively. She didn’t seem too keen.

However Anna’s assistant Janet was extremely supportive and wants the law changed so she has the right to marry her girlfriend. It’s nice to know there’s a dyke in the Anna Burke office keeping Anna honest.

Oh yes, and the email I called Julia and Tony first class c*nts, that tickled Janet pink. :)


I kissed a man and Allah-ked it

April 17, 2012

A group of radical, fanatical Jihadi Islamic protesters gathered at the Global Atheist Convention on Sunday April 15 2012.  Seemingly they felt that atheism was a threat to humanity and their very existence.

Gregory and I had a smooch in front of these whack-jobs and they started howling that we would “burn in hell”.

Our friend Pete Darwin captured the moment with my trusty Nikon and the rest is history.

A couple of my dear friends giving some love back to the protesting Muslims at the Global Atheist Convention today!

“A couple of my dear friends giving some love back to the protesting Muslims at the Global Atheist Convention today!” — Pete Darwin

There’s been a bunch of coverage online:

If you find any other places that have covered this story, please let me know.

Original photographs on Picasa and Facebook.

Thanks to Katy Perry for inspiration.


Marriage Equality vs Catholic Bishop Christopher Prowse

March 30, 2012

Dear Catholic Bishop Christopher Prowse,

Your lies and untruths do you and your boy-raping paedophile-protecting Catholic Church no justice.

You have no credibility and you make no sense.

You perpetuate vile attitudes.

I dislike you because you are full of hate and intolerance.

Michael Barnett.


Now that I’m married…

March 29, 2012

Tonight my partner Gregory and I got married.  We made a public declaration, affirming our love for each other.  We were dressed in our sartorial best, freshly shorn and groomed like two gay blades.

20120326 Michael and Gregory on the Adam Hills wedding set

We had a bucks night the week before and we even had a lovely party afterward, with wonderful catering.  Oh, and there were bomboniere.

I have to be honest with you.  It wasn’t a real wedding, and we didn’t really get married.  But yes, there was a wedding, on TV, in which as reality actors, we pretended to get married.  You see, currently in Australia two men like Gregory and me are not allowed to get married to each other.  That’s gay.

But despite the mean-spirited Howardian legalistic prohibition on us blokes tying the knot, the lovely team at Adam Hills In Gordon St Tonight decided to throw us a big ole gay wedding.  And throw us a wedding they did.  There were photoshoots, interviews, a special bucks and hens night (coz there were some chicks as well as some blokes wanting to tie the knot), the main event, wedding presents and even a cocktail reception afterward.  Oh, and there was live entertainment too, although it seemed more like it had been freshly exhumed.  And all at tax-payer expense.  Thank you tax paying Australia, and especially Jim Wallace and Bill Muehlenberg, coz I know how much you hip dudes would have wanted to help us celebrate our homosexual union.

If you know me you’d know that I’ve been very activisty in raising awareness of the discrimination that a not insignificant section of Australia’s population faces when it comes to equality in relationship recognition.  I’ve protested (peacefully) at the Equal Love rallies.  I helped my partner campaign as a then-candidate for the Secular Party of Australia in the 2010 Federal Election (because the party supported marriage equality).  I manage the Proud to be a Second Class Australian Facebook group, with a moniker aimed to draw attention to being treated as second class by the Federal Government.  I give money to Get Up! to campaign for marriage equality.  I’m even a paid member of Australian Marriage Equality.

I don’t think I could possibly make it any clearer that I am trying to achieve a turnaround in the marriage legislation in Australia, to remove the discriminatory words that, for no good reason, prevents me from marrying my partner.  That said, we are already living in a legally recognised relationship under Victorian state legislation because we entered a civil union on April 21, 2010.  Sadly though this relationship is only valid in Victoria and carries no legal weight anywhere else in the world.  It’s also not the same as being married.  You might ask why?  Well, quite simply, because it’s not a marriage.  It’s a civil union, or a registered relationship, or a domestic partnership, or whatever else you want to call it, but it’s not a marriage.

20100421 Relationships Register

Do I want to get married?  Good question. Yes, and no.  To be honest I don’t really know.  Parts of me want to get married and then go and say to those who don’t believe in equality “See, two poofs can now get married, so stick your bigotry…”.  More than that I want to be a positive example of a successful same-sex relationship, to help empower those in their closets, and say “Gregory and I are two men, married to each other.  If we can do it, so can you.  Be proud of who you are”.  Other parts of me simply don’t like the old-fashioned, out-dated notion of marriage that binds two people together, until either one dies or they get a divorce.  Camels and goats must be fatted and dripping in gold chokers if you must give a dowry.

I am committed to being in my relationship with Gregory, and irrespective of any piece of paper or legal status, we love each other very much and want to be deeply interconnected in each other’s lives.  I know what we mean to each other.  We’re special in each other’s eyes and hearts and that’s something legislation can’t change.  But it can make us equal in society, and that’s what we both want.  Equality.  Incidentally, some narrow-minded folk believe that two gay men can’t be equal in society, and therefore shouldn’t get married, because we can’t have children, or that even that we’d be depriving the children of a mother, and therefore bad parents, blah blah blah.  With two well-adjusted adult children under his belt Gregory certainly isn’t looking to have any more.  And we are equal in society.

20120326 Panorama of wedding couples on Adam Hills TV set

Now, around the middle of February this year Gregory sent me an email asking if I wanted to be in the Adam Hills IGST mass gay wedding.  I pondered the idea and then without consulting Gregory I sent in an application to be part of the wedding.  I thought that if he was tempting fate with asking me to be part of a TV wedding, I’d accept the challenge and commit him, and me, to being part of it.  :)

We were accepted by the IGST team and told there were going to be a number of events over the coming weeks culminating in the TV wedding.  It was becoming exciting.  A bit like a real wedding.  Photos, what to wear, bring some food, look good, get hair cut (#2 clippers on each other…), vajazzle, you know, the usual stuff.  There was a sense of anticipation.  A bit like a real wedding.

We told our family and friends about this.  They got excited.  Very excited.  Colleagues were talking, even those who were usually a little uneasy with the “gay” thing were getting excited for Gregory and me.  I was even asked by a colleague, who only last year told me he didn’t believe in gay marriage, whether I was going to invite the guys from work to a bucks night.  After a coffee and a chat he even seemed comfortable with the notion that marriage equality might have some merit in treating people on an equal basis.  Yes, equality is about being equal.

Gregory told me many of his colleagues were having kittens because he was getting married.  They really couldn’t contain their excitement for him.  And on Facebook I was getting a variety of well-wishes from people who wanted to know when “it” was and then wished us all sorts of lovely things in anticipation of the big day (or is it the big gay…?).  Things were abuzz.

20120308 Mikey & Gregory pre wedding glitzy pic

I really started feeling like I was getting married, for real.  When we got civil unionated in 2010 people were happy for us, but not to the same level as they had become around the IGST wedding event.  It was as if the notion of marriage conveyed a special status, over and above any other sort of life event or relationship recognition.  Funny that.  Because it does.  It’s the ultimate in happy.  And it’s the ultimate in silly too.  Just look at the amount of money people throw at weddings.  It’s big business.

Quite remarkably though, and I think this is about as significant as it gets, Gregory told me that tonight, on his way home, a dear friend of his told him that he had decided that it wasn’t so bad after all if two blokes wanted to get married.  He threw his religious belief coins up in the air and they both landed queen-side up.  And the world didn’t stop, and the sky didn’t fall in.

20120308 Mikey and Gregory pre-wedding photoshoot

People have been talking because of the IGST wedding event.  They are talking about how lovely it is to see two guys getting married, and two gals getting married, and they cried and they were happy.  These people and conversations are actually changing attitudes and opening minds.  Oh, and my Facebook account has melted with all the wonderful messages from people who saw us on the TV and loved that we were getting married.  I have never ever had a bigger response to anything on my Facebook page than to our participation in this event.  It’s really quite overwhelming, and humbling.

So we got TV married tonight, in a very happily-ever-after way.  Two handsome princes rode off into the sunset and shared a bit of love around the place, and hopefully they made a difference.

PS.  If you missed the TV coverage of this event, you can catch up on it here.

PPS.  If you want to tell the Australian government why you support marriage equality, you can make a submission here.  It only takes a few minutes.  Be quick as the deadline is April 2, 2012.  You can read other people’s public submissions on the site, to get an idea of what they are saying.  Speak from the heart.  It need only be a few paragraphs.  Thanks.


Adam Hills in Gordon St Tonight – Big Gay Wedding – March 14 2012

March 16, 2012

Barnett to be married at public expense

March 15, 2012

[SOURCE]

Photographer, blogger, popular Melbourne gay identity and significant Qmelb contributor, Michael Barnett, is to be featured in a mass gay wedding with his handsome partner. The wedding (and what has been advertised as a stag night / hens night) will be hosted on Australia’s national television network’s by comedian Adam Hills over the next two Wednesday evenings. This will clash with Melbourne’s Queer Film Festival. The wedding will be paid for by Australian taxpayers, a service the ABC has never offered to straight couples. At this stage it is not known whether the ABC or Barnett will be releasing a video of the post wedding celebrations.

Michael Glover
East Melbourne

(The Gordon St Mass Same-Sex TV Wedding Extravaganza is just around the corner! This inaugural event will happen on March 26 and airs Wednesday March 28 at 8:30pm.)


A letter to Anna Burke about Marriage Equality

April 3, 2011

Get Up told me Anna Burke, my local member in the federal seat of Chisholm, wanted to hear from me.

From: GetUp <info@getup.org.au>
Date: 3 April 2011 10:36
Subject: Ms Anna Burke wants to hear from you
To: Michael Barnett

Dear Michael

Your MP, Ms Anna Burke, is conducting a survey in your electorate, Chisholm, to determine community support for marriage equality. Can you participate? Click here to share your views with Ms Anna Burke.

Last spring GetUp members sent over 10,000 emails in support of a Parliamentary motion that encouraged Members of Parliament to gauge their constituents’ views on marriage equality. Now, many MPs, including yours – Ms Anna Burke – have started consulting their electorates.

Under current laws, same-sex couples cannot get married and are denied the same rights and recognition other married couples enjoy. But now, as MPs consult their electorates, you have a unique chance to help form their opinion and inform their vote. Click here to have your say.

Thanks for making your voice heard,

The GetUp Team

I wrote this email in response:

From: Michael Barnett
Date: 3 April 2011 18:07
Subject: My views on marriage equality
To: Anna Burke <anna.burke.mp@aph.gov.au>
Cc: Gregory Storer

Dear Ms Burke,

My partner Gregory Storer and I have been in a committed relationship since November 2008.  We love each other deeply and would like the right to be able to marry each other.

There is no justifiable reason for preventing us from getting married.  We are identical in every way to any heterosexual couple, except that one of us is not female.

Some people will claim that we can’t conceive a child between us and other people will say that any children we raise will suffer from not having a parent of either gender.

My response is that there are plenty of heterosexual people who cannot or choose not to have children.  There are also plenty of single mothers and fathers who ably raise their own children.

As it happens, my partner Gregory Storer has two teenage children that he raised single-handedly and so he is not looking to have any more children.  I am not looking to have any children either.

We would like the right to get married though, as we currently feel we are treated as second-class citizens by our government and we believe we are entitled to the same rights and privileges as all other Australians.

We pay the same taxes as all other Australians and we contribute to society the same as all other Australians.  Yet we are treated differently to all heterosexual Australians simply because one of us is not female.  Do you think that is fair to discriminate against us because one of us is not female?

I encourage to you to understand that it is harmful to the mental health and self-esteem of all people who are treated less than anyone else simply because of their gender or their sexual orientation.  You would understand that, being female.

If you have any doubts or questions about what I am saying, I would encourage you to listen to this presentation by Rodney Croome, delivered at the Wheeler Centre in 2010.  It’s worth every minute of time it takes to watch.

http://wheelercentre.com/videos/video/rodney-croome-the-case-for-gay-marriage/

Sincerely,
Michael Barnett.
Ashwood, VIC
0417-595-541


When Michael met Gregory (or “A Delicatessen of Delights”)

March 25, 2011

I wrote about The Potential Wedding Album (TPWA) project last October.  It’s a great initiative that aims to raise awareness of the discrimination that Australians who are in a non-heterosexual relationship face in relation to Government recognition of their relationship.

To help get this important message out, TPWA have now partnered with Same Same and are running a series of interviews with same-sex couples, talking about how they met.  The first interview in the series is with me and my partner Gregory.  Read our story, and if you’re inspired, contact both TPWA and Same Same and tell your story too.


The “It Gets Better” Project

October 25, 2010

Dan Savage started the It Gets Better Project, to try to make a positive difference to the lives of young people who are being bullied and struggling because of factors relating to their real or perceived sexual orientation.

I made a video for the project.  You can view it here.  My partner Gregory also told his story.

I invite you to also record a video for the project.  It’s really easy to do.  Just open your phone cam, plug in a web cam on your laptop or personal computer, or ask a friend to help you out.  Take a minute or longer and tell your story.  Tell a story of how you survived your school years, how you helped a friend get through, how you might have been a bully and how you regret it, how you said something once that you think might have had a negative impact on someone and wish you could have taken it back.  Please, just say something, something sincere and from the heart.  You might just make someone sit up and listen.  They might think twice about taking their life, or give them a ray of sun to lighten a dark place.

Joel Burns told a deeply moving story.   President Barak Obama has spoken from the White House.  These are just two of the more amazing contributions to the project.  There are hundreds more.  Every one adds a little extra piece to the puzzle of hope and love.

You can make a difference.  You owe it to someone who needs your help.


The Sacred and the Secular: The Same Sex Marriages Case – An Evening with Albie Sachs

September 22, 2010

On Monday night I had the privilege of hearing Albie Sachs talk about his involvement in legalising same-sex marriage in South Africa.  An amazing person, someone we can all learn something from.

See below for details on the event and some background on Albie Sachs.

Albie Sachs, Gabi Crafti, Michael Barnett & Gregory Storer (photo by Gaby Jung); Sep 20 2010

Albie Sachs, Gabi Crafti, Michael Barnett & Gregory Storer; Sep 20 2010 (Photo by Gaby Jung)

The Sacred and the Secular: The Same Sex Marriages Case – An Evening with Albie Sachs

Organisation The Human Rights Law Resource Centre
Date 20 September 2010
Description The Human Rights Law Resource Centre (HRLRC) invites you to an evening with Albie Sachs, Former Judge of the South African Constitutional Court, on the topic of ‘The Sacred and the Secular: The Same Sex Marriages Case’.Sachs was appointed by Nelson Mandela as an inaugural judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa. He was a member of the National Executive of the ANC and played a crucial role in South Africa’s transition to democracy, including by contributing towards the drafting the South African Bill of Rights. Whilst in exile in Mozambique in 1988, Sachs was badly injured by a car bomb placed by South African security agents. He lost an arm and the sight of one eye as a result.

As a judge of the Constitutional Court, Sachs was responsible for many landmark human rights judgments, including in relation to equality, non-discrimination and social and economic rights. In 1991, Sachs won the Alan Paton Award for his book ‘Soft Vengeance of a Freedom Fighter’. He is also the author of ‘Justice in South Africa’ (1974); ‘The Jail Diary of Albie Sachs’ (1966); ‘Sexism and the Law’ (1979); and ‘The Free Diary of Albie Sachs’ (2004). Sachs’ latest book, ‘The Strange Alchemy of Life and Law’, will be launched in Melbourne at this seminar.

Sachs is visiting Australia to deliver the University of New South Wales Law Faculty Annual Hal Wootten Lecture.

Time: 5.45 pm for 6.00 pm to 7.30 pm.

Venue DLA Phillips Fox, Level 21, 140 William Street, Melbourne
Cost $30 ordinary; $15 concession
Contact admin@pilch.org.au

The Sacred and the Secular:

The Same-Sex Marriages Case

with

Albie Sachs

Former Judge of the South African
Constitutional Court

Albie Sachs was appointed by Nelson Mandela as an
inaugural judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa,
from which he retired in 2009. He was a member of the
National Executive of the ANC and played a crucial role in
South Africa’s transition to democracy, including through
the drafting of the South African Bill of Rights. In 1988,
while in exile in Mozambique, he was badly injured by a car
bomb placed by South African security agents, losing an
arm and the sight of an eye.
As a judge of the Constitutional Court, Justice Sachs was
responsible for many landmark human rights judgments,
including in relation to equality, non-discrimination and
social and economic rights.
In 1991, Albie Sachs won the Alan Paton Award for his
book Soft Vengeance of a Freedom Fighter. He is also the
author of Justice in South Africa (1974), The Jail Diary of
Albie Sachs (1966), Sexism and the Law (1979) and The
Free Diary of Albie Sachs (2004). His most recent book,
The Strange Alchemy of Life and Law, will be launched in
Melbourne at this seminar.
Albie Sachs is visiting Australia to deliver the University of
New South Wales Law Faculty Annual Hal Wootten
Lecture.


Alex Fein & Yaron Gottleib, Sensible Jews engaged in anti-secular intolerance

August 14, 2010

Alex Fein is “The Sensible Jew“.  Yaron Gottleib has been a regular contributor on her blog.  They announced their engagement to each other this week.  I don’t believe there has yet been a disclosure of their relationship status on the blog.

On Alex Fein’s Facebook wall she takes a swipe at the Secular Party:

Alex Fein: It’d be frightening if they ever had a real chance at power – Socialists, Fascists, Secular fundamentalists with bizarre Israel policy… Yaron looks at the ugliest candidates standing at the coming election.

This is a reference to a blog on the analysis of the “ugly” political parties running candidates in the coming election.  The analysis is mostly pathetic and shows a lack of maturity by it’s author.

I posted this comment in reponse to her statement on Facebook:

Alex, you remark that the “Secular fundamentalists” are [amongst] “the ugliest candidates standing at the coming election”.  How do you justify this assertion?

Gregory Storer is the Secular Party candidate for Melbourne Ports. His name will appear on your ballot paper.  In the lead-up to the election he has written a number of articles regarding upholding human rights and equality, including equality for women.  He critiques Michael Danby’s poor performance on some of these issues.  How does that make him one of the “ugliest candidates”?

I ask you read what he has to say (http://gregory.storer.com.au/) and would appreciate you then justify what I would consider your outrageous claim.

Michael.

Let’s see what engaging response the Sensible Jew comes back with.


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